My former labmate Dr. Juan Carlos Villarreal recently described a new species of hornworts from Columbia.
Villarreal A., Juan Carlos; Campos S., Laura Victoria; Uribe-M., Jaime; Goffinet, Bernard. 2012. Parallel Evolution of Endospory within Hornworts: Nothoceros renzagliensis (Dendrocerotaceae), sp. nov. Systematic Botany 37: 31-37.
Hornworts are a separate lineage of bryophytes that are named for the morphology of the sporophytes. They open by two vertical slits splitting the sporangium into two halves starting at the apex. To the right is an image of several elongated sporophytes sticking out of the frilly gametophyte thallus below. The tallest sporophyte is splitting at the top. However, this is not the new species, but a plant that grew in one of the other cultures that I was growing in the laboratory.
The new species, Nothoceros renzagliensis is named after Dr. Karen S. Renzaglia, who is a professor at Southern Illinois University. Her research focuses on early land plant anatomy, morphology, and systematics. Juan Carlos completed his master's thesis studying hornworts in her laboratory.
I think that it is fabulous that Juan Carlos named this plant after his former advisor. She is a great scientist who has contributed significantly to the field of bryology. I am completely in favor of naming species in dedication to scientists who have contributed significantly to the study of a particular group of organisms.
The only time I have been involved in naming a species was for the fern ally Isoetes tennesseensis. This species is endemic to Tennessee, hence the name.
What do you think? Should the specific epithets of scientific names contain information about the region where the organism is found or some other salient morphological feature? Or do you like the idea of naming plants or animals in tribute to great scientists?